Statistical analysis 2018/01: Quality in higher education

Which students are most satisfied with the quality of teaching?

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Sixty-five per cent of students in Norway are satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of teaching, but differences are huge. Students are most satisfied at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Ås and at the Norwegian School of Economics.

Which students are most satisfied with the quality of teaching, and why? Results from Eurostudent VI show that the share of students who are satisfied with the quality of teaching varies by study location.

How to define quality?

Quality in higher education is a multidimensional term (Frazer, 1992). Research uses various indicators for different quality dimensions.

There are different types of quality in higher education (see Gibbs, 2010);

  • Structural quality focuses on the financing of higher education and available resources.

  • Intake quality is about students’ qualifications for their studies and their academic competences from upper secondary school.

  • Output quality relates to students’ adaption to the labour market and learning outcomes.

  • Process quality focuses on the academic level of the studies, as well as forms of teaching and evaluation. This includes quality of teaching.

The report to the Storting on quality in higher education (Kunnskapsdepartementet, 2016) stresses that high quality in teaching is essential to meet the challenges faced by society. Analyses have shown that satisfaction with quality in higher education affects students’ overall satisfaction with the study programme (Bakken, Pedersen & Øygarden, 2018). However, quality of teaching is ‘many things at once’ (Wittek & Habib, 2012: 231). The term can be interpreted in different ways and students are often more critical than teachers (Haakstad & Nesje, 2012).

 

Norwegian students least satisfied in the Nordic region

Results from Eurostudent VI show that 65 per cent of students in Norway are satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of teaching in 2016. This share is at the same level as it was in 2013, when the previous round of Eurostudent, Eurostudent V, was conducted. There are huge differences between countries (Hausschildt, Gwosc, Netz & Mishra, 2015). In the Nordic countries, a lot of students are satisfied with the quality of teaching. Yet, figure 1 shows that the share of satisfied students is higher in the other Nordic countries than in Norway. In Sweden and Iceland, the share of satisfied students was around 70 per cent in 2016. In Finland, as much as 76 per cent of the students were satisfied in 2016; more than 10 percentage points more than Norway. Finland had a significantly higher share of satisfied students in 2016 compared to 2013, and we can also observe a corresponding increase in Denmark, from 68 per cent in 2013 to 74 per cent three years later.

1 Iceland did not participate in Eurostudent V.

Figure 1. Share of students being (very) satisfied with the quality of teaching. All students, by country

Norway Denmark Sweden Iceland¹ Finland
Eurostudent VI 2016 65.14 73.55 69.80 71.00 76
Eurostudent V 2013 64.90 67.90 69.20 68.80

Differences between Norway and the other countries can be related to how teaching is practised. Students in Denmark spend more time on teaching and on personal study time (Utdannelses- og forskningsministeriet, 2017), which may have affected the results. At the same time, there were reforms in higher education that might have an impact on the results in the different countries.

A reform in Finland in 2010 gave universities more autonomy. The aim of the reform was to make higher education in Finland more efficient and to improve its quality (see Aarrevaara, Dobson & Elander, 2009). Moreover, it is possible that differences between Norway and the other countries can be related to which types of students participate in the survey: Iceland and Sweden, for example, included only university students in 2016, and Denmark included only full-time students.

More about the survey Eurostudent VI

Eurostudent is a survey of students in different European countries. The purpose of the survey is to collect comparative data on students and higher education in Europe. This includes not only students’ study situation, but also their economic situation and living situation.

Norway participated in the survey for the first time when the third round of Eurostudent was conducted in the period 2004-2007. The sixth round of the survey is being carried out in the period 2016-2018, with 28 participating countries. Of 24 000 students in the Norwegian sample, 36.7 per cent answered the questionnaire.

International results from Eurostudent VI will be published in March 2018.

Specialised university colleges have the most satisfied students

The Eurostudent survey in Norway includes students from universities, university colleges and specialised university colleges. Specialised university colleges are institutions at university level within a specific field, which have the same responsibilities and authorities as universities. Around 10 per cent of the students in Eurostudent VI are enrolled at a specialised university college. University colleges account for 30 per cent of the students, while more than half of the students in Eurostudent VI are enrolled at universities.

Sixty-five per cent of the university students are satisfied with the quality of teaching, as shown in figure 2. At the same time, there are differences between students from the different types of university colleges. Students at specialised university colleges are most satisfied with the quality of teaching, with as much as 76 per cent of the students being satisfied. Students at other university colleges, on the other hand, are less satisfied and the differences in the share of satisfied students is 15 percentage points lower compared to students at specialised university colleges. There are, however, only small differences between students at universities and students at university colleges, and results from Eurostudent VI reflect the results from the previous round of the survey.

Universities and university colleges in Norway

The Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT) accredits universities, university colleges and specialised university colleges in Norway. An overview on the institutions can be found on the websites of NOKUT. Names of institutions used in this article reflect the situation during the period of data collection for Eurostudent VI, and do not take into account changes in names and mergers between institutions that happened after May 2016.

Nord University was established after a merger of the University of Nordland and the university colleges in Nesna and in Nord-Trøndelag in 2016. Results from 2013 refer only to the University of Nordland and do not include students from the university colleges in Nesna and Nord-Trøndelag. Results for NTNU in 2013 also reflect the situation before the merger with the university colleges in Gjøvik and Ålesund.

Figure 2. Share of students being (very) satisfied with the quality of teaching. All students, by type of educational institution

Eurostudent VI 2016 Eurostudent V 2013
Universities 65.37 64.28
Specialised university colleges 75.73 75.33
Other university colleges 61.06 60.84

One reason for the satisfaction of students at specialised university colleges can be that these university colleges are more specialised within a field than universities.

There can be differences within the three groups of institutions in higher education, as they differ from each other with regard to the programmes they offer and which students they recruit. In order to analyse differences between institutions, the article will now focus on institutions with 40 respondents or more in both rounds of Eurostudent. Results will be more reliable as we do not include small institutions with few students, which can cause random variations.

Most satisfied university students in Ås and at the Norwegian School of Economics

Figure 3 shows the share of university students who are (very) satisfied with the quality of teaching, distributed by institution. Students enrolled at the Norwegian School of Economics had the highest share of students who were satisfied with the quality of teaching in 2016, with 86 per cent. This share was 11 percentage points higher in 2016 compared to 2013, and some of the variation can be due to a low number of respondents from the Norwegian School of Economics in 2013. The results are reflected in figure 2, where the two specialised university colleges – the Norwegian School of Economics and the Norwegian Business School – are on top in terms of students’ evaluation of the quality of teaching.

Among the universities, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Ås in the county of Akershus has the highest share of students who were satisfied with the quality of teaching in 2016, with around 80 per cent.

Also at the universities of Oslo, Agder, Bergen and at NTNU, the share of students who were satisfied was above the average of 65 per cent in 2016. The universities of Tromsø and Stavanger, as well as Nord University, were below the average, both in 2013 and in 2016. This also applies to the university colleges included in the figure. At Bergen University College, only 52 per cent of the students were satisfied with the quality of teaching in 2016; a difference of 34 percentage points compared to the Norwegian School of Economics.

Figure 3. Share of students being (very) satisfied with the quality of teaching. All students, by institution

Eurostudent VI 2016 Eurostudent V 2013 Average Eurostudent VI 2016
Bergen University College 52 53
University of Stavanger 54 54
Nord University 56 60
Oslo og Akershus University College 56 54
Østfold University College 60 57
University of Tromsø 61 59
Lillehammer University College 62 63
Average 64 65
NTNU 66 64
Other institution 67 65
University of Agder 69 69
University of Bergen 69 66
University of Oslo 69 65
Norwegian Business School 75 77
NMBU 78 81
Norwegian School of Economics 86 75

Results are stable at most institutions when comparing results from Eurostudent VI and V. However, higher education in Norway has been undergoing changes in recent years, and mergers between institutions mean that more students have become university students. NTNU merged with the university colleges in Gjøvik and Ålesund in 2016. Yet, the satisfaction with the quality of teaching at NTNU has not changed over time.

The other institution resulting from a merger is Nord university, which was established after a merger of the University of Nordland and the university colleges in Nesna and in Nord-Trøndelag in 2016. In this case we can observe that the share of students who were satisfied with the quality of teaching decreased from 60 per cent in 2013 to 56 per cent in 2016, but there is no evidence to conclude that this decrease was caused by the merger.

Business on top in students’ evaluation

The different fields of study often have their own specific culture of teaching and characteristic teaching practices (Wittek & Habib, 2012), which makes it relevant to take a closer look at differences between different fields of study. Students in business, administration and law, as well as students in natural sciences, mathematics and ICTs and students in arts and humanities have the highest share of satisfied students. In all cases, around 70 per cent of the students are satisfied, and this is the case both in Eurostudent VI and in the previous round.

Students in engineering, manufacturing & construction, as well as those studying health and welfare or education are least satisfied. The share of students who were satisfied with the quality of teaching was around 60 per cent both in 2016 and in 2013.

Figure 4. Share of students being (very) satisfied with the quality of teaching. All students, by field of study

Eurostudent VI 2016 Eurostudent V 2013 Average Eurostudent VI 2016
Health and welfare 60 60
Education 61 57
Engineering, manufacturing & construction 62 58
Average 64 65
Other fields 66 74
Social sciences, journalism and information 66 64
Arts and humanities 69 71
Natural sciences, mathematics and ICTs 69 74
Business, administration and law 70 70

Figure 4 shows that the differences between the different fields remained stable between 2013 and 2016, but there are some exceptions. In the field of engineering, manufacturing and construction and in social sciences, the share of satisfied students has increased by 5 percentage points. Results from Eurostudent reflect tendencies shown in the survey Studiebarometeret, a source which is often used in analyses of students’ evaluation of quality in higher education. According to the Studiebarometer 2016, students in humanities and arts are more satisfied with teaching and supervision compared to students in engineering, manufacturing and construction for instance (Bakken et al., 2018). There are big differences between fields in how the quality of the study programme is evaluated, not only among the students, but also among the teachers (Lid et al., 2018).

Bachelor students less satisfied than Master students

In addition to differences between different institutions and fields of study, it is relevant to take a look at differences between study programmes. Students taking a Master’s degree or a long national degree have the highest shares of satisfied students, with 72 per cent in 2016. The share for the latter has increased somewhat since 2013. Students taking a Bachelor and those following other programmes, such as one-year programmes or single subjects, are less satisfied. Among the Bachelor students, only 61 per cent were satisfied with the quality of teaching in 2016, and results are more or less the same as in 2013.

Figure 5. Share of students being (very) satisfied with the quality of teaching. All students, by study program

Eurostudent VI 2016 Eurostudent V 2013
Bachelor 61 59
Other program 65 64
Average 66 67
Master 72 70
5-6 year long national degree 72 68

Differences between different study programmes can be related to the variation in ages of the students. Students taking a Bachelor degree are often younger than Master students, and students taking a one-year programme or single subjects are often a more diverse group. As differences between study programmes can be related to age differences, it is important not only to take into account factors related to the study programme, but also so-called demographic background variables when analysing why students are satisfied with the quality of teaching.

Differences between institutions are important

Until now, we have examined differences in the quality of teaching as regards the students’ place of study/educational institution, study programme and field of study separately. However, we know that different institutions differ from each other with regard to which study programmes and fields of study are offered, and the students are not similar when it comes to other characteristics, such as age or sex. Does the picture change when we, in the same analysis, take into account different characteristics of the students and their study situation (educational institution, study programme, field of study, age, sex, full-time/part- time students, time spent on studies and paid work alongside the studies)?

In order to answer to this question, we used logistic regression models. Logistic regression makes it possible for us to say whether there is, on average, a higher or lower probability of being (very) satisfied with the quality of teaching in different groups of students (e.g. by institution) when we control for the other variables that are included in the analysis.

Results are presented in table 1. In model 1, we include only the universities. Results show that students at all other universities on average have a higher probability of being satisfied with the quality of teaching compared to students enrolled at the university of Stavanger. The only exception is Nord University, where the difference is not statistically significant from the University of Stavanger. Also students enrolled at the Norwegian School of Economics and the Norwegian Business School have a higher probability of being satisfied compared to students at the University of Stavanger. The results are only slightly affected when we control for other variables in the models 2 to 4.

When we control for study programme, however, the differences between the university of Tromsø and the University of Stavanger disappear. Hence, it can be concluded that there are no differences between the University of Tromsø and Nord University and the four university colleges included in the analysis, compared to the University of Stavanger. Students at all the other educational institutions have a higher probability of being satisfied with the quality of teaching compared to students at the University of Stavanger. The fact that the effect of the educational institution is also stable when controlling for other variables, shows that differences between institutions impact on students’ perceptions of the quality of teaching.

Table 1. Logistic regression analysis. Probability of being satisfied with the quality of teaching. N=7947

To table

Field of study, study programme and age are also important

Field of study also seems to be of importance for how the quality of teaching is perceived, and the effect is stable also when controlling for other variables. The results confirm the picture shown in figure 4, and confirm that students in arts and humanities, social sciences, information and journalism, natural sciences, mathematics and ICTs, as well as students in business, administration and law have a higher probability of being satisfied with the quality of teaching than students in the field of education.

The results also show that there are no differences between students in education and students in health and welfare, students in engineering, manufacturing and construction, as well as those studying in other fields. When we control for other variables, the results show that students in social sciences, journalism and information do not have a higher or lower probability of being satisfied with the quality of teaching compared to students in the field of education.

When it comes to the effect of study programme, the results show that students taking a Master’s degree and students taking a 5-6-year long national degree have a higher probability of being satisfied with the quality of teaching than students taking a one-year study or single subjects. Bachelor students, on the other hand, have a lower probability of being satisfied compared to students taking a one-year study or single subjects (the reference category). Differences between students taking long national degrees and Master students and those taking other programmes become more pronounced when controlling for age differences. In addition to differences according to study programme, the results show that being younger than 22 and 30 years or older gives a higher probability of being satisfied with the quality of teaching than students aged 25 to 29 years.

Time spent on studies has an impact

The model also controls for several other variables, but not all of them affect the probability of being satisfied with the quality of teaching. A lot of students in Norway have paid work alongside their studies, and students working more than 10 hours a week spend less time on their studies (Keute, 2017). The model shows that students who have paid work have a lower probability of being satisfied than students who do not have paid work alongside their studies. The probability of being satisfied with the quality of teaching is not dependent on whether students are full-time or part-time students either. But how much time students spend on their studies is important: students spending less than 20 hours a week on study-related activities have a lower probability of being satisfied with the quality of teaching compared to students spending 20-40 hours a week, while there are no differences between the latter group and students spending more than 40 hours a week on their studies.

Method: logistic regression analysis

Which factors affect students’ satisfaction with the quality of teaching is analysed in a logistic regression model. Logistic regression is a statistical method that is applied in order to see relationships between a dichotomous dependent variable – in our case (very) satisfied versus not (very) satisfied. Results from different models are presented in table 1. The table shows odds ratios (OR) and indicates whether relationships are statistically significant.

Odds ratios can have values between 0 and + ∞. An odds ratio of 1 shows that the odds for being (very) satisfied is higher compared to the reference category for a certain variable, whereas a value below 0 shows that the odds are lower. A relationship is described as statistically significant if we can say with at least 95 per cent certainty that it is not due to random variations.

  

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